Ten Great Female Astronomers You Should Know

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Mabel Armstrong is pleased to announce the release of ''Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars.''

“Asked to name one female astronomer, most people do well to come up with Sally Ride, who was America’s first woman in space. That’s a good start, but in fact, women’s contributions to the field of Astronomy are vast,” says Mabel Armstrong, former science professor and author of the just released book ''Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars.''

“While many are unaware of women’s endeavors in this science, it’s important girls in school know that females have made an impact on Astronomy in the past, and are making great strides today. The future of Astronomy can be your daughter’s, granddaughter’s or niece’s.”

Did you know ... ?

1 & 2: Women acted as priests of temples, producing detailed calendars — based on observed movements of the stars — long before modern calculations confirmed such things. Two of these priestesses were EnHeduanna of Babylon (2350 BC) and Queen Sondok of Korea (632 AD).

3: Hypatia of Egypt, who worked in the famed Library at Alexandria, invented the astrolabe around 400 B.C. She created it to locate and track the movement of the stars, and also labored to produce a detailed table of her observations. Sailors used the astrolabe and Hypatia’s tables for navigation over the next 1200 years.

4: Caroline Herschel, who was born in Hanover, Germany, but lived in Windsor, England, became the first woman to discover a comet in 1786. She and her brother, William, are responsible for building the largest telescope of the time (40'), and credited with developing astronomy into a full-fledged science. King George III paid Caroline a small salary for her discoveries — making her the first recorded female scientist employed by royalty.

5: America’s First Lady of Astronomy was Maria Mitchell, of Nantucket, Massachusetts. She found her first comet in 1847, 61 years after Caroline Herschel. She went on to describe sunspots, eclipses and the surfaces of both Jupiter and Saturn.

6 & 7: Two exceptional women led to the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope: Nashville, TN’s Nancy Grace Roman — frequently called the ''Mother of the Hubble Space Telescope'' — and Margaret Peachy Burbidge of the U.K..

8: Vera Rubin theorized that our universe is made up mostly of “Dark Matter,” in 1964. Not until the 1980s was her research confirmed. The universe we see at night and through telescopes only comprises 10% of the actual universe.

9: Carolyn Spellman Shoemaker has identified 33 comets and asteroids on destructive paths to the planets in our solar system. The most famous of which was Shoemaker-Levy 9, which struck Jupiter in spectacular fashion, in 1994.

10: In 1999, Canadian Wendy Freedman used red shift measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope to determine that the universe is expanding in such a way as to suggest it was created 14 billion years ago.

These are only ten of the thousands of female astronomers. Every day, bright women are contributing to our knowledge of Astronomy.

Mabel Armstrong is the author of ''Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars'' (ISBN 9780972892957; $14.95; Stone Pine Press; trade paperback; 2 color; YA Non-fiction: Science/Astronomy/Biography; 288 pages; release date: January 2008), which is the first in a planned series of ''Discovering Women in Science'' books for Young Adults. ''Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars'' is available wherever books are sold.

To arrange an interview with Mabel Armstrong, to acquire a review copy of ''Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars,'' or to get a jpeg of the cover or author, please contact Jacqueline Simonds, 775.827.8654 ext 113, jcsimonds@beaglebay.com.

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